South African Journal of Higher Education

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Reflections on life as a student from the position of employment

P Engel-Hills, J Garraway, J Nduna, G Philotheou, C Winberg


The workplace is strongly present in Technikon/University of Technology (UT)
programmes, both as a learning resource and as a site of knowledge production.
Part of the traditional strength of UTs is that students are simultaneously
acculturated into academic and workplace knowledge systems. But while there
has been this acknowledgement of the role of the workplace in UT education, very
little research has been done on work-based learning, or the development of
curricula, and there has been practically no evaluative research to trace the impact
of career-focused programmes.
The above provides a rationale for this article, which reports on research done in
investigating the relationship between changing workplaces and teaching and
learning practices within tertiary institutions. We investigate the knowledge that
students carry with them from the UT to the workplace and explore the UT
curriculum from the perspective of past students, in a number of case studies. The
sample subjects are drawn from recently qualified students who are currently
working. The research design uses a life history research methodology. This
methodology privileges in-depth accounting of experience from a participant's
point of view, engages participants in retrospectively assessing the present in
relation to the past, and draws on their socio-historical contexts.
We identify common strengths and weaknesses in UT curricula across three fields.
The strengths we identify include the practical and technical skills developed by
students, while the weaknesses include strategic and critical thinking, as well as the
communication skills for participation in the new, `flattened' workplaces. The
discussion on our findings is informed by concepts of knowledge movement
between the institution and the world of work.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 19 (2) 2006: pp.292-305
AJOL African Journals Online